While in Chiang Rai, Brian read about a small mountain town tucked away in the northeastern corner of Thailand. We didn’t have any other plans so when Brian suggested we take the four hour bus ride there, I didn’t give it a second thought. We even met a young couple from Australia that happened to be going there as well and so we all traveled there together.
While Phu Chi Fa is no hidden gem for locals, it’s still somewhat undiscovered by western tourists. Don't let the floods of thai tourist deter you from visiting, it was incredible. Securing the bus tickets and managing any sort of communication whatsoever was near impossible, so we will make sure to write up a guide on how to get there, where to stay, etc., but per the usual, that won’t be for a little while so feel free to send us a note if you need any help.
The ride up there is beautiful, but a word of caution for the faint of heart, it's not an easy ride. No one got carsick (that I know of) during our journey (something that can’t be said for our bus rides in Laos), but the entire second half of the ride is up a very windy mountain road. The four of us were the only non-thai tourist on the bus, and also the only ones who spoke English. Brian had found a guesthouse on Travelfish (one of our current go-to blogs for SE Asia) and somehow, with lots of pointing and over the top facial expressions, we were able ask a fellow passenger to speak with the owner and reserve two rooms for us.
We spent the first evening gazing at the stars and solving all of the world problems over a couple cold Changs with our new friends before heading to bed for our 3am wake up call. (Side note: no one else woke up at 3am because no one else decided to walk from their guesthouse to the viewpoint. This was of course Brian's idea. It was worth it.)
Brian and I headed out, with zero direction, other than the obvious - we need to go up. With our headlamps in tow, we made our way to this mystical, remote location. We even had a friendly companion that showed us the way (just like the dogs on the Wild Coast). We named him “Phuch” (Pooch). As we walked in complete darkness, the beauty surrounding us was already overwhelming. We had to stop a few times in an attempt to capture what we were seeing. Everything felt untouched.
We knew we were getting close once we walked through the carpark and heard the festively decorated, young Laotian children singing in the dark. Their parents watched on from a distance in hopes for some money, which we gave with heavy hearts. This continued for nearly the entire journey up. As we neared the peak, we felt as if we were jolted out of our romantic, endless, starry night and thrown into a sea of selfies. But you know what? It didn’t matter. What was waiting for us beyond the selfies (seriously, we even saw a group of Buddhist monks with a selfie stick) was a magnificent blanket of fog cascading through the graceful peaks of Laos. And only the distant light from the moon and stars lingering in the sky.
We reached the summit around 5am and with sunrise not until after 6am we had an hour or so to take it all in. As we sat in silence, aside from the clicking of shutters, we took a moment to really be grateful for this opportunity the world had given us. With all the chaos back home, it felt almost selfish to be surrounded by such serenity.
We noticed that for a moment, the chatter died down, and the clicking came to a halt. The sun was rising, the moon still visible, and the peaks and valleys of Laos came to light. The mist, still present, resembled an ocean. And the mountains peeking through, felt like a landscape of never ending floating islands. It was breathtaking. I don't know if there are enough words to describe the feeling we had in that moment. So I'll stop trying and let the pictures speak for themselves.
Unknowingly, it ended up being our last day in Thailand.